Purpose: To evaluate the relative importance of functional quality (how services were provided) and technical quality (what was received for those services) on patient perceptions of pharmaceutical service quality.
Methods: A scenario-based experimental design was chosen to manipulate functional (FQ) and technical quality (TQ). Subjects were asked to read one of four scenarios describing a pharmacy service experience and imagine that he or she were in the situation described. High and low TQ were manipulated by describing the presence or absence of a prescription medication dispensing error made by the pharmacist in the scenario. Each subject completed a survey about their evaluations of the service provided in the scenario. An ANOVA using a 2 x 2 completely randomized factorial design was conducted to compare the effects of TQ, FQ, and their interaction on perceptions of service quality and behavioral intention. Effect sizes were measured with the calculation of omega-square.
Results: FQ had the greatest impact on patient perceptions of service quality and behavioral intentions. FQ explained 44% of the variance in service quality and 39% in intention to return. TQ and the interaction accounted for a significant but much lesser effect. The interaction showed that the effect of FQ was greatest under conditions of high TQ. There were no significant associations between any demographic characteristics and responses to service quality.
Conclusions: The results suggest that FQ has the greatest impact on consumer perceptions of pharmaceutical service quality even under conditions of an obvious example of low TQ which respondents perceive as serious and possibly harmful. This study underscores the limitations of relying on patient perceptions in evaluating pharmaceutical services. Although patient evaluations are important, they can be inadequate for assessing the professional quality of services.